NEW YORK —
The hiring pairs the nation’s largest cable operator by subscribers with the country’s biggest bank, as speculation heats up that someone will make a bid for Time Warner Cable, the nation’s second-largest cable operator.
Securing JPMorgan as its adviser gives Comcast access to the biggest balance sheet on Wall Street, potentially smoothing the way for a deal that would probably top $40 billion.
It also suggests that Comcast is taking seriously Time Warner Cable’s invitation to consider a combination, an overture Time Warner made last month after heightened speculation it could be the target of an unsolicited bid.
A deal between Comcast and Time Warner Cable would face intense antitrust scrutiny, since it would combine the two largest providers of cable television, both of which are also leaders in providing Internet access.
And any bidder would be paying a hefty price in a deal. Time Warner Cable shares are up 35 percent this year, and 8 percent in the last two weeks alone, as speculation of a deal has intensified.
Yet Comcast has been compelled to evaluate a bid after smaller rivals, led by Charter Communications, have made it clear they believe now is the time for consolidation in the industry. Cox Communications, another smaller cable operator, is also reportedly evaluating a bid for Time Warner Cable.
But people close to Time Warner Cable insist that the company is in no rush to do a deal with anyone and approached Comcast only as a way to keep all options open if another bid appeared. Time Warner Cable is on the brink of a handover from one chief executive to another, and its stock is riding high.
JPMorgan and Comcast declined to comment.